By Joe Henricksen
A matchup of last year's Class 4A and 3A state champions and the top three prospects in the Class of 2011 all taking the floor highlight the Chicago Public Schools Basketball Showcase on Sunday. Here is a Hoops Report rundown of what to look for at Chicago State.
Stars set to shine
This may be the only opportunity for fans to catch the top three City/Suburban Hoops Report prospects in the Class of 2011 -- and arguably the top three Mr. Basketball candidates -- all in the same gym on the same day. Although Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives, Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park and Mycheal Henry of Orr won't be facing one another in any of the games, all three will take the floor for their respective teams.
The biggest test any of the three will have will be Blackshear's tilt with Homewood-Flossmoor. Morgan Park will square off with a big, athletic and talented group from the south suburbs. Although 6-7 talented junior Tim Williams is out with an injury, the Vikings have the type of size and athleticism to throw at Blackshear in an attempt to try and slow down the high-scoring 6-5 wing. The Hoops Report would love to see the tough, physical, 6-4 and long Julian Lewis tangle with Blackshear.
Perspectives has struggled mightily in the early going. And St. Charles North will be a tough opponent for Anthony Davis & Company. Lets see how St. Charles North, which was torched by East Aurora's Ryan Boatright for 55 points earlier this season, handles a different type of star in the 6-10 Davis.
Unbeaten state champs square off
The reigning Class 4A champs square off with the defending Class 3A state champs as a pair of early unbeatens -- No. 1 ranked Simeon and unbeaten Hillcrest meet in the final game at Chicago State Sunday night.
There is no question that the margin for error will be smaller for Hillcrest than Simeon. But more than anything, this will be a perfect early-season measuring stick for coach Don Houston's Hawks. Sure, Hillcrest owns a very impressive win over Homewood-Flossmoor and has beaten both Bloom and Thornwood, but the Hawks will be a little out of their comfort zone in playing a non-south suburban team in a big arena and against the state's top team.
While Julius Brown is the catalyst and a veteran with big-game experience, many of what is a talented Hillcrest group will be getting their first taste of important, key varsity basketball moments when going up against Simeon. This is a game, win or lose, that will absolutely pay dividends for Hillcrest in March as a valuable experience and opportunity for growth, both individually and as a team.
Big test for H-F, Morgan Park
Homewood-Flossmoor has put together a rugged schedule, which will include another trip to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament later this month where the Vikings could have another potential date with Morgan Park.
While Morgan Park slipped by Milwaukee Hamilton in its opener, H-F has split with its two toughest foes -- beating Mt. Carmel and falling to Hillcrest. Right now the focus for coach Jim McLaughlin's H-F team is to limit Blackshear's impact while continuing to make strides in valuing the basketball. In a loss to Hillcrest, H-F turned the ball over 18 times.
Morgan Park continues to place a heavy load on a young backcourt. However, Markee Williams and Billy Garrett have more maturity and experience than typical sophomore guards. And the Mustangs always have Blackshear to lean on in tough times and when they need a basket. Blackshear has made huge strides in picking up his tenacity and not quitting on plays or trips down the floor. That has played a large part in his increased productivity and consistency over the past 12-18 months.
Here is the lineup of games for the CPS Showcase at Chicago State on Sunday.
10:45 a.m. Thornton vs. Von Steuben
• Don't sleep on the Wildcats from Thornton. Jay Parker and Brian Greene lead a very balanced team that hasn't tasted defeat yet this seson. And coach Vince Carter of Von Steuben remains the face of that program and typically overachieves. Will that continue in what is more of a rebuilding year?
12:30 p.m. T.F. North vs. Orr
• Coach Tim Bankston's club hopes to challenge Hillcrest in the South Suburban Blue. He may know if his team will be able to after squaring off with Orr. T.F. North's Montero Rice is a hidden gem in the south 'burbs. Orr, meanwhile, could have its hands full with a different style of ball that T.F. North throws at you. Plus, coach Lou Adams and his boys will have a quick turnaround, bouncing back from a Saturday night game at 7:30 p.m. in Springfield.
2:15 p.m. Perspectives vs. St. Charles North
• It's been a rough go of it for both teams in the early going. The only difference is St. Charles North has played a highly-competitive schedule and held its own. The North Stars fell to ranked opponents Hales Fransican, Downers Grove South and East Aurora. But it's a chance to get a look at Davis and an early peak at one of the better 2013 prospects in Quinten Payne of St. Charles North.
4:00 p.m. Benton Harber (MI) vs. Whitney Young (Girls)
• Ummmm ... and what exactly are we to do during this one?
6:00 p.m. Morgan Park vs. Homewood-Flossmoor
• A matchup of two programs that were both ranked among the top 10 teams in the preseason. While Wayne Blackshear is the focus and sophomore guards Markee Williams and Billy Garrett are promising young prospects for Morgan Park, 6-4 shooter Jerome Brown can be a silent assassin on the perimeter. H-F needs a steady effort from junior Tyrone Sherman and David Fatoki.
7:45 p.m. Simeon vs. Hillcrest
• Should be an interesting battle to see how Hillcrest handles the size and depth of Simeon, which boasts super sophomore Jabari Parker.